Impetigo is a highly contagious bacterial skin infection. It most commonly affects the face and hands, and it is characterized by red sores that crust over and form small blisters. It can be easily spread to other parts of the body and to other people. Symptoms usually go away without treatment, but it is important to take steps to prevent the spread of the infection. Treatment usually involves antibiotics to help fight the infection, as well as over-the-counter corticosteroids to help reduce inflammation.
The main symptom of impetigo is a rash on the skin. This rash appears as red sores, blisters or scabs that may itch, ooze fluid and produce a distinct odor. Other symptoms of impetigo include swollen lymph nodes, fever, exhaustion and general malaise. If the rash spreads to other parts of the body, signs and symptoms may be more severe.
The known causes of impetigo are bacterial infections, typically from either Staphylococcus aureus or Streptococcus pyogenes. Both of these bacteria are normally found on healthy skin and can become pathogenic when introduced to areas of damaged tissue. Other factors that can increase the risk of impetigo include excessive sweating, skin abrasions, poor hygiene, and weakened immune systems.
The most common risk factors for impetigo include:
- Living in overcrowded conditions
- Poor hygiene
- Contact with someone who has an impetigo infection
- Having a skin injury or a skin condition, such as eczema
- Being in a hot, humid environment
- Living with a weakened immune system due to HIV infection, chemotherapy, or other medications
- Having a history of impetigo or other skin infections
Impetigo is usually diagnosed by its appearance, but a doctor may confirm the diagnosis by taking a sample of the skin and examining it in a lab. The sample can identify the type of bacteria causing the infection and rule out other skin conditions. Other tests may sometimes be used such as a blood or urine test.
Impetigo is a highly contagious bacterial skin infection that is most commonly seen in children. It is characterized by blisters, sores, and/or scabs on the face, arms, and legs. There are two main varieties of impetigo; non-bullous and bullous.
Non-bullous impetigo is the more common form and is characterized by blisters or sores that after a few days crust or form a scab. The sores can be itchy, red, or yellow and typically have a honey-colored crust.
Bullous impetigo is less common and is characterized by larger blisters, usually on the torso, arms and/or legs. The blisters can be filled with fluid and are usually painless. They can also be itchy.
Both forms of impetigo can also lead to secondary skin infections such as cellulitis and lymphadenitis.
The primary goal of treatment for impetigo is to eliminate the infection and reduce the risk of spreading it to other areas of the body or to other individuals. Treatment options for impetigo include:
- Topical antibiotics. Creams or ointments, such as mupirocin, fusidic acid, or retapamulin, are commonly prescribed to treat impetigo.
- Oral antibiotics. Tablets, such as dicloxacillin or cephalexin, may be prescribed for larger or more severe cases of impetigo.
- Antiseptic solutions and medicated dressings. These help to reduce the risk of further skin damage from scratching and can also help to reduce the spread of the infection.
- Wound care. Keeping the area clean, dry and free from infection can help to reduce the risk of recurrence.
- Immunization. People who are at risk of developing impetigo, such as those with weakened immune systems, may need to be immunized with a vaccine that helps to prevent the infection.
There are several steps you can take to reduce the risk of impetigo:
- Practice good hygiene, such as washing your hands often, showering daily, and keeping your skin clean.
- Avoid sharing items, such as towels, that can transmit the bacteria that causes impetigo.
- Wear appropriate clothing when outdoors and avoid tight-fitting clothing that can trap sweat and create a warm, moist environment.
- Keep any cuts or wounds clean and covered with a sterile bandage.
- If you have impetigo, avoid contact with others and wash your bedding and clothes regularly.
- Take steps to boost your immune system, such as proper nutrition and regular exercise.
- If you are a parent, make sure your children are up-to-date on their vaccinations.
Yes, there are gender-specific differences in the presentation and management of Impetigo. In general, Impetigo affects more males than females, often appearing in areas where boys are more likely to have contact such as the face and scalp. Impetigo is also more likely to occur in boys who are not circumcised and in those who have a weakened immune system.
Males with Impetigo tend to have symptoms for longer periods of time than females which can lead to more extensive scarring. When treating Impetigo in males, health care providers must take into account the patient’s age, underlying medical conditions, and severity of the infection. Treatment may include topical and/or oral antibiotics, antiseptics, and/or corticosteroids. To prevent the spread of infection, any topical treatment should be applied to the entire affected area, not just the visible lesions.
In females, Impetigo is typically found around the mouth, chin, and nose. Women with Impetigo may experience more itching and irritation than males. Treatment for Impetigo in females is similar to that for males, but additional measures, such as keeping the affected areas clean and dry, may be necessary to prevent the spread of infection. Women should also be aware of the risk of scarring, which is more likely to occur in women than in men.
Nutrition plays an important role in the management of impetigo. Eating a balanced diet that includes plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and healthy fats can help support the body’s natural healing processes. Consuming foods high in Vitamin C such as oranges, kiwi and red peppers can boost immunity and help fight infection. Vitamin A and zinc, found in foods such as carrots, nuts, and spinach, can also be helpful. Additionally, avoiding processed and sugary foods, refined carbohydrates and fast food can reduce inflammation and further support healing.
Physical activity can have an indirect impact on preventing or reducing the risk of impetigo. Taking part in regular physical activity can help maintain a healthy immune system, which can in turn help to defend against impetigo. Additionally, physical activity can help to reduce stress, which can impact the body’s ability to fight off infections. Finally, taking part in physical activity can help to promote good hygiene habits, such as washing hands with soap and water and showering regularly, which can help reduce the spread of bacteria that can lead to impetigo.